FirstGroup shares accelerate after deal to terminate TransPennine contract

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It may be a down day for the markets overall, but FirstGroup PLC (LON:FGHP ) has managed to travel in the right direction.

Its shares are up 2.11% or 1.55p to 75p after the transport group agreed to pay the Department for Transport a final £6mln to cancel its TransPennine Express railway franchise, taking the total it has paid to £48.5mln.

It said this was around £50m better than its last assumption.

The group has already given up the South Western Railway and West Coast Partnership franchises, with the pandemic cutting passenger numbers and leaving financial forecasts in tatters.

The settlement for TransPennine was based on the DfT’s view that “no event of default would have taken place had the pandemic not occurred”, FirstGroup said.

New deals are being discussed for all three routes that will mean they are run for the government by FirstGroup for a fixed management fee.

Chief executive Matthew Gregory said: “We welcome this agreement with the DfT, and are continuing to discuss a long-term National Rail Contract for TransPennine Express which will focus on passengers and operational performance, with a more appropriate balance of risk and reward.”

2.10pm: Fashion group upbeat on outlook

Fashion retailer Joules Group PLC (LON:JOUL) is heading higher after a positive update despite the restrictions of lockdown.

It said it had traded well since its half year results at the end of January, helped by strong sales from its digital platform, an encouraging contribution from Garden Trading Company – bought in February – and a good performance from its stores since they re-opened in mid-April.

So it expects full year profits to be well ahead of current forecasts of £4.1mln. Last year it made a £2mln pretax loss.

The news has pushed its shares 5.41% or 14p higher to 273p.

11.50am: Food firm falls on fundraising

Food specialist Agronomics Limited (LON:ANIC) is one of the day’s big fallers after it unveiled a £50mln fundraising.

The company, which invests in businesses focused on cultivated meat and alternative proteins, plans to issue shares at 22p each and warrants exercisable at 28.5p a share as part of a conditional subscription and placing.

The money raised will be invested in its existing portfolio of 16 companies as well as new opportunities in cultivated meat, which is produced in bioreactors by using animal cells.

Non-executive chairman Richard Reed said: “Agronomics has expanded rapidly over the past two years, and this financing will further accelerate its growth. 

“We anticipate it will provide the full funding to support our existing portfolio companies through their next financing rounds, while also giving us sufficient capital to pursue acquisitions of new investments in this exciting field as it enters into what we expect will be a multi-decade growth phase.”

Its shares are down 31.76% or 11.75p at 25.25p, still above the placing price.

10.35am: Bus group shares move ahead 

Rotala PLC (LON:ROL) has seen its shares accelarate after some director buying.

The bus business, which operates at Heathrow Airport as well as in the West Midlands and North West, is up 9.23% or 3p at 35.5p after executive director Robert Dunn showed his confidence in the company by buying shares for the second time this month.

He paid 32p a share for 75,000 on Monday to take his stake to 3.22%. On May 6, the day the company issued full year results and an upbeat outlook, he bought 25,000 for 31p each.

9.13am: Bars group expects full year to beat forecasts

It is the proverbial sea of red in the markets but there are some bright spots out there.

Revolution Bars Group PLC (LON:RBG) is toasting the news that indoor trading in pubs and restaurant will indeed by allowed next Monday, 17 May.

It has already opened 25 of its 66 bars for outside trading, which have seen good business despite some chilly weather.

The company said: “The restrictions in place are such that in the bars where we have been able to trade outdoors the covers available represent approximately only 15% of total capacity of those venues, which are also trading for shorter hours than normal.

“Despite these constraints, we are delighted to report that these venues have delivered 48% of the sales in the four weeks to 9 May 2021 when compared to the same period in 2019, when there were no COVID-19 restrictions. We believe this performance has been underpinned by the strength of our brands, our loyal customer base and the improvements we have made to the business during the period of forced closure.”

With the next stage of re-opening in sight, the company believes its full year performance will be ahead of previous expectations.

Chief executive Rob Pitcher said: “As predicted we have seen huge pent up demand and a rapid recovery across the nation in the bars with outside space that we have been able to open to date.

“The ability to trade inside from 17 May 2021 provides another landmark in the Roadmap and whilst we will still be restricted to using less than 50% of our actual capacity, the demand that we have experienced in recent weeks provides us with the confidence to open all the remaining bars.” 

The news has pushed its shares up 10.94% or 3.5p to 35.5p.

8.29am: Private jet firm takes off after record year

Aviation businesses have been hit badly by the travel restrictions forced on the industry by the pandemic. You only have to ask the likes of Heathrow or International Consolidated Airlines.

But charter specialist Air Partner PLC (LON:AIR) has bucked the trend.

Its shares have taken flight, up 10.26% or 8p to 86p, after it reported a record full year performance and said the first quarter was ahead of management expectations.

Driven by a positive performance from its charter and US private jet businesses as wealthy customers continued their leisure travel despite the pandemic, it saw revenues rise 6.7% and underlying pretax profits jump 176.2% to £11.6mln.

It also benefited from evacuation activity, while sports and government business also continued. Its freight operations thrived thanks to flying PPE and automotive supply chain disruption.

But travel restrictions dampened demand for its private jet business in the UK and Europe.

After a strong start to the current year, the company also expects the second quarter to be above its original forecasts as long as government restrictions are lifted.

Chief executive Mark Briffa said: “Last year was a record year for Air Partner, as our proven ability to partner with governments and global corporations enabled the group to play a vital role in evacuations, repatriations and the provision of PPE in the face of the global pandemic…

“I was also pleased to see our diversification strategy has come to the fore, as we provided customers with solutions that combined our expertise in Charter and Safety & Security in Asia, America and Europe. We have started the new financial year ahead of expectations, with our organic investments in the US continuing to drive growth in this important market. Looking ahead, I am excited about the opening up of the aviation sector and believe our Private Jets and Safety & Security offerings are especially well placed to benefit from the re-opening of skies and airports.”

Also heading higher is Invinity Energy Systems PLC (LON:IES).

Its shares have surged 16.26% or 20p to 143p after it signed a deal with Gamesa Electric, a subsidiary of Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energ.

The two firms will jointly develop a vanadium flow battery based on Invinity’s technology and incorporating Gamesa Electric’s advanced power conversion systems, and sell the product through both of their commercial channels.

Proactive news headlines

The City Pub Group PLC (LON:CPC) said trading has been encouraging since pubs were allowed to reopen for outdoor trading, with 24 of its 45 pubs open at present but unable to serve thirsty customers indoors.

Angling Direct PLC (LON:ANG) said it will meet market expectations for the current financial year after swinging to a profit during the pandemic.

Coinsilium Group Limited (LON:COIN) said its subsidiary Nifty Labs has started development work on a new non-fungible token (NFT) project to create an ‘NFT on Bitcoin’ marketplace platform powered by the RSK blockchain, a smart contract platform secured by the Bitcoin network.

Kromek Group PLC (LON:KMK) achieved significant revenue growth during the second half of the 2021 financial year, after orders and shipments of the company’s medical, nuclear and security screening detection technology resumed midway through the first half. 

Drilling has now begun on the Kitlanya East in Botswana, a project held by Kalahari Metals, which is 50.01% owned by Metal Tiger PLC (LON:MTR). 

Mobile payments specialist Bango PLC (LON:BGO) has entered into a partnership with NTT DATA to expand payments across Asia. Merchants using the Bango Platform to offer online payments can now expand their footprint to users in Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Philippines, and other key Asian markets.

Tirupati Graphite PLC (LON:TGR) announced that its planned investor webinar on the Investor Meet Company platform has been rescheduled to 19 May at 10:30am BST. The live presentation from executive chairman Shishir Poddar and two other directors is open to all existing and potential shareholders, with questions invited in advance or during the event.

AEX Gold Inc (LON:AEX, TSXV:AEX) notified that its annual and special general meeting will take place online on June 9 at 10am Toronto time.

Bahamas Petroleum Company PLC (LON:BPC) announced that it will extend the latest time and date its open offer from 11am on 12 May to 11am on 18 May.

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